Posts by McPilot

Hello there, I'm Johnny. I am 40 years old and have the privilege to work as a professional airport bum. That being a self-styled job title as there really isn't one set way to engage in said profession. Many folks have figured out the same career and the only way to decisively identify a professional airport bum is often by the thought that crosses everyone's mind when they interact with one "How the heck do they call this a job or make a living." To professionally bum around an airport and also pay the bills is the pinnacle of success in my book as well as many others. But I digress... (throat clearing). Professionally I am a Helicopter CFI (Certified Flight Instructor), and Airframe and Powerplant mechanic with IA (inspection authorization). My specific areas of expertise (rolls eyes) are in Robinson Helicopters and Helicopter maintenance and operations in general. I have piston, turbine, and multi engine helicopter experience. To the real meat and taters of me, I love people, I love flying, I love airports, and yes, I love helicopters. Now now, don't get me wrong; Airplanes are amazing and I also like them very much, it's just always been helicopters for me. I dated some airplanes and they were nice, but we were never made for each other like the whirlybirds. I could go on and on about professional experience ad nauseum, but that's boring. If, for some reason you (reader) and I have reason to discuss my actual qualifications, then I will gladly provide them to you for your evaluation. Since this is my small part of the internet, I'll just keep it to that :) Also, the above dismissal of starting into broader aviation conversations (which I truly intend for this site) with my qualifications and all the reasons you should respect what I say is exactly what I feel is important to discuss. The difference between facts and opinions, techniques and standards. I will try to attempt to write from a position of separating qualification from ego, to tease apart the human condition from operating an aircraft. If you come away from my writings with more questions and critical thinking skills, then I will have considered it a success. In addition, I am a husband to an amazing wife, father to two amazing daughters, and son and brother to an awesome family. I am a friend to my friends. All of these amazing people who I am honored to share my trips around the sun with are the foundation of my life. Cheers, johnny

Robinson 12 year overhaul

AdobeStock_73812034-checkup-small-300x253Disclaimer:  Any advice or information presented here is the opinion of the Author.  It is not FAA approved or acceptable data, nor is it an authorization to perform maintenance or determine airworthiness. 

In advising owners and operators on the 12 year “thing”, I’m surprised to hear them say that “no other aircraft or engine requires this crap”. That is untrue.  Many other aircraft and engines will require some type of calendar overhaul.  These aircraft tend to be turbine powered aircraft.  Often they are the kind of aircraft that are used more commercially or as VIP transport for corporations or private owners.  So, yes, in relation to an old Cessna which does not have a calendar overhaul requirement, a Robinson does seem like the manufacturer is imposing their rule over you unfairly. Does everyone know that Lycoming also recommends overhaul of their engines at 12 years in Service Instruction 1009?  Current revision as of this writing is SI 1009BB.  Which is funny because it states overhaul at 12 years, and then states for part 91 operations and EASA NCO operations that an appropriately rated mechanic may extend the TBO.  However, it warranted enough thought and research from Lycoming to recommend the 12 year mark for overhaul.

To be clear, I personally don’t have a horse in this race.  It would not be possible for me to care less whether or not owners or operators do or not do the 12 year.  My purpose here as always is just to bring up the topic and open the conversation.  Also, this posting does not really apply to part 135 operators.  They have an ops spec that is essentially their own set of FAR’s and it will be customized to their operation.  This issue tends to arise more with private owners, flight schools’ and some of the other operators that conduct commercial operations under part 91 maintenance requirements.

Sorry folks, the water is going to get much more cloudy before it gets clear.  Now, in the case of the R44 we have a couple things going on.  As promised in my bio, I’ll put out what I consider to be FACTS:  (if these are wrong,  please correct me)

  • The R44 was certified under  27 for normal category rotorcraft.  Type Certificate number H11NM.  FAR 27 Appendix A requires aircraft manufacturers to produce Instructions for Continued Airworthiness as part of certification.  Appendix A to Part 27
  • The 2 R44 engines ( O-540, IO-540 ) were certified under CAR regulations, so they were to have a manual, however, the manual did not have to be one document.  It is accepted practice that the entirety of Lycoming Service Letters, Service Instructions, Service Bulletins and the Operators Handbook comprise the “manual” for pre-maintenance manual Lycomings.
  • FAR 43.16 States:
    Each person performing an inspection or other maintenance specified in an Airworthiness Limitations section of a manufacturer’s maintenance manual or Instructions for Continued Airworthiness shall perform the inspection or other maintenance in accordance with that section, or in accordance with operations specifications approved by the Administrator under part 121 or 135, or an inspection program approved under §91.409(e).
  • FAR 43.15 (b) states:
    (b) Rotorcraft. Each person performing an inspection required by Part 91 on a rotorcraft shall inspect the following systems in accordance with the maintenance manual or Instructions for Continued Airworthiness of the manufacturer concerned:
    (1) The drive shafts or similar systems.
    (2) The main rotor transmission gear box for obvious defects.
    (3) The main rotor and center section (or the equivalent area).
    (4) The auxiliary rotor on helicopters.
  • FAR 91.403 (c) states:
    (c) No person may operate an aircraft for which a manufacturer’s maintenance manual or instructions for continued airworthiness has been issued that contains an airworthiness limitations section unless the mandatory replacement times, inspection intervals, and related procedures specified in that section or alternative inspection intervals and related procedures set forth in an operations specification approved by the Administrator under part 121 or 135 of this chapter or in accordance with an inspection program approved under §91.409(e) have been complied with.
  • The Robinson R44 Maintenance Manual is the manual and the ICA (instructions for continued airworthiness) for the R44 series aircraft required by certification.

Ok, with me so far?  Near as I can tell, it’s a veeeeeeerrrrrrryyyyy grey area to say that an owner is not is legally required to perform the 12 year limited overhaul as listed in R44 Manual  Chapter 2.  Let’s break it down a couple ways and see if we can get past this and still feel good about ourselves as aviators.  I’ll caveat here and say that yes, as an IA, I have returned one aircraft to service that was beyond it’s 12 year, it had newer main and tail rotor blades as well.  However, I did make a phone call to the local FSDO and discuss this prior to doing it.  To be honest, I never really felt great about that.  I felt just a little dirty and was glad when the aircraft was overhauled shortly after annual.

From the perspective of a part 91 operator who presumably has main and tail rotor blades that are within their 12 year life.  Yes, one could possibly squeeze by without doing a 12 year if you read 43.15 VERY critically and ONLY use Robinson’s checklist excepting the parts that talk about overhaul limits.  Furthermore, you COULD possibly then read 43.16 very critically and use the legalese logic that you are not performing an inspection specified in Robinson’s airworthiness limitations, but instead are performing an inspection specified by 91.409.  As far as I can tell, this isn’t much to go on as a reason to fly beyond 12 years, but it’s about all anyone has got in this example.

Another FAR maze you could try to run on this problem is to use the accepted standard practice that FAR’s and AD’s are regulatory, but Service Bulletins, Letter, Instructions, and manuals are just manufacturers opinion, and yes, you would also be “correct” based on accepted practice that is sanctioned by FAA inspectors.  Or would you be “correct?”  I don’t know the FAR’s (laws) state pretty clearly that ICA’s and manuals are to be published as part of certification, and that those same documents are to be used on rotorcraft as part of the performance rules.  Now, maybe as an IA your inspector is lenient on this and understands that some areas are grey and it’s impossible to comply with every rule.  However, in my opinion that’s a risky little game to play.  The truth of the matter is that as an IA you are given the authority to make an airworthiness decision and by making the aircraft airworthy past 12 years, you are walking pretty far out on a lonely plank.  Odds are that it won’t be an issue, but what happens if the aircraft goes down and you have to explain how you forged ahead in the face of the rules we all operate under.  It’s going to be pretty hard to pass that omission off as a simple mistake.  As an owner you could get yourself backed into the corner of either A – Not being able to get an annual, or B – Thinking you are all aiworthy and good to go based what could be construed to be some fairly shaky logic and getting into trouble should you ever need to make an insurance claim, depending on your insurer.

In either of these circumstances the potential for financial and legal issues goes well beyond my personal risk tolerance level.  As an IA who strives to provide good service and advice to my clients, I could not in good faith sign an annual inspection unless I had cleared the way with the FAA and their insurance / financing companies.  And then, in that case, I am myself exposed to possible certificate action if there is an issue.  What’s the point?

A 12 year inspection isn’t insanely expensive if planned for and executed properly.  Even tearing the engine down and performing the Lycoming overhaul process as well as sending components back to Robinson for 12 year inspection or outright overhaul can be effected for a good price by a reputable A&P.  Here’s the catch, just like anything it will cost an arm and a leg, and be a half-assed job if executed without educating oneself on the process, researching the best options for each and every part, and then going forward without a plan.  If you drop it off at the maintenance hangar and your mechanic just gets to ripping and tearing it apart it will cost you.

I would STRONGLY recommend to all who are involved in Robinson hell’s that are beyond the airframe 12 year mark to evaluate your position very carefully.  Again, I am not passing judgement, I am only opening the conversation.  These are a great aircraft and I’m sure that thousands of them would safely fly for decades without being taken apart.  But there are others that are in rough environments, or have been misused, or left to sit out on the ramp that probably warrant a nice spa treatment and reset to continue flying safely.

Keep the whirly bits up – Johnny


Dealing with over limit events as a mechanic

I recently got involved in advising an owner on a Lycoming engine overspeed.  This is something I feel is worth talking about because in many cases a published limitation is only written in the POH.  Unless there is an electronic or mechanical way to verify that an over limit has actually occurred, we are left to the honesty and integrity of the pilot, the owner, and the mechanic dealing with the process of returning the aircraft to airworthiness.

Often times, the situation goes like this.  A pilot sheepishly admits to the owner or mechanic that there might have been an _________________ event. We will use an overspeed in this case.  Then there is some foot shuffling and discussion about how much of an overspeed it was.  Generally this is where the subconscious pressure game starts to come into play.  Some numbers are thrown out and they generally tend to get smaller or larger through the conversation.  At some point they say “hey mechanic, what do you think?”.  This is where the pressure can really come in because now it’s up to the mechanic to make the call on how much money and time you spend correcting the issue. And yes, most A&P’s will do the right thing and call it what it is but there is still some pressure in this situation.  I propose a different approach.

After being part of this scenario repeating over and over (flight school environment) I said “there’s GOT to be a better way.). So I implemented a very small change.  I put forth a policy whereby the pilot and owner or anyone involved did all the talking and coaching and foot shuffling and mumbling WITHOUT a mechanic involved.  Once it had all been sorted out and the appropriate numbers were established they filled out an incident report that detailed the particulars.  After this was completed they were to give this to maintenance and then it was very easy to compare the reported numbers with the appropriate manuals and report back which inspections or service were due.

All in all, this honestly became a much better situation for everyone.  It eliminated the possibility that the mechanics could be later implicated in “minimizing” the necessary inspections, and it also kept the responsibility with the pilot / student that had the overspeed.  See, that’s the subtle safety issue at play here.  That once an aircraft is down, that there is guilt and bad feelings all around and then maintenance starts buying into it and will push themselves to fix the problem or make it go away.  It’s the entrance to the rabbit hole of practices that will eventually lead to problems.

If you’ve ever worked in maintenance or even operations and have had an aircraft grounded for an over limit event, I’d like your thoughts.  Once I kind of dimly figured out what was going on mentally for everyone involved it became clear as day when it happened.  I could even feel my anxiety level rising when confronted with the situation and that became a red flag to go “hold on, what’s happening here.”  For me it became an exercise in not letting my desire to fix the problem turn into somehow accepting responsibility for the event itself.

Cheers – Johnny

Instructing without instructing


With the stroke of a pen, that shiny new temporary CFI paper certificate is a ticket to the world.  All that hard work and money spent has now come to fruition and you’ll be able to finally make a buck doing what you’ve dreamed of.  It truly is an awesome experience to pass the CFI exam and start instructing, because that’s where the real learning picks up.  You immediately see things that you did, or your instructors did “wrong” (obviously it was good enough to get you a certificate, lol) and you’re ready to go set the world on fire by taking all your fresh knowledge and pumping it directly into your students dream filled heads.

Ahhh, the cycle continues.  With every fresh batch of CFI’s and new students there are mentor/student interactions that play out, some to the advantage of everyone involved, some to their disadvantage.  With all of the initial CFI instruction I’ve had the privilege of giving over the past few years, I’ve picked up on, and hopefully passed on some bits of knowledge.  See, my background and intro to flight training was a bit different.  I started flying and also went to work in the hangar where I worked for several years in maintenance, all while watching the dance of instructor / student play out as flights were briefed, dispatched, recovered, and de-briefed.  Listening to instructors at different stages of experience and literally having years to watch the cycles and patterns repeat.

Recently I’ve had some time to finally pen some of these observations and formulate them into a more coherent set of thoughts which will be presented as blog articles in the CFI’s Toolbox portion of this site.

Usually I get my CFI candidates after they have flown with some of the other guys a while.  They have been going over the maneuvers guide from the left seat (helicopter CFI side) and they have been teaching lesson plans etc.. which is all very good stuff. We meet in my office and I start with “right then, how did you FEEL about your primary instruction?”  This usually sets them back and they give me that look like they will be in trouble if they sell out their primary CFI.  In fairly short order, they will have drawn up a list of pros and cons as it relates to their training in their private (primacy is a very important principle).  I then ask them what they would do differently than their instructor did and we write those results down.  Then we set that aside for later.  There is a point to this I promise 🙂

Then we draw three columns on the board.  On the left we title it “where you are at”.  In the center, we title it “roadblocks”.  On the right we title it “where you want to be”.  We fill it in either based upon their current situation, or a hypothetical student situation.  It’s a pretty short list, for example.  Currently they hold a rotorcraft helicopter commercial certificate and they want to get to a CFII level.  Roadblocks can be lots of things like money, life stress, time, work, etc…  So now we have a list of things they want to do differently, and a whiteboard with a good visual of the process of progress to meet their goals.

I have them quickly list off all of the things that a flight instructor can affect in the roadblocks column and its usually just a couple things.  The whole point of this is to make them realize that as a CFI, you can only affect a small piece of the whole process.  And in order to really do the best job with that small influence will actually take a lot of thought and skill.

Back to observing instructors whose students have consistently good results.  Here are things that I witness consistently among this group:

  • They spend more time listening than talking to their students
  • They truly understand and use the 4 levels of learning from the FOI.
  • They do not continue doing the same thing over and over, if it doesn’t work after a few tries they try something different.
  • They do not “throw a lot” of tasks at their students only to watch them routinely fail, they build confidence in their student by allowing them to master tasks one at a time.
  • They are kind and empathetic toward their students life situations and personal struggles.
  • They do not “teach”, they work to provide a safe, secure environment where the student can learn at their own pace.
  • They stick to a standard set of maneuvers for primary and even commercial instruction instead of stroking their own egos by spending the students time and money presenting lots of their own “Opinions” on how to perform some task.
  • They are more of a life coach than a flight instructor.  Or maybe they are good flight instructors because they understand people.
  • They work on their own skills so that when the time comes to demonstrate a maneuver they can show their student what good flying looks like.  Not to show off, but to encourage their students and show them that it THEY will get there soon.

Essentially all this adds up to is that instructors who teach without teaching don’t spend a lot of their energy talking AT their students and trying to stress them out by “pushing” them hard.  They create a peaceful, safe environment for their student to learn at their own pace, and then as the student progresses, they give them more tasks.  When you observe it in practice, everyone looks happier, and the bottom line is that the student will spend less money and time while gaining more skill out of the entire process.

The concept of teaching without teaching is a tough one to put across.  Unfortunately in the process of developing a flying career some may have to instruct even though it really isn’t their passion or forte.  This doesn’t mean at all that you have to settle for giving poor or average quality instruction.  Remember, in this small industry, you may be applying for a job with one of your former students someday and you want to know that you did the best you could for them.

It takes a significant amount of knowledge and skill to pass the CFI oral/practical, but that isn’t the end of it.  I encourage everyone to keep working and also to move away from the teacher / student concept to the more experienced student / student concept because that is what is really going on in the cockpit.

Keep the whirly bits up – Johnny


Robinson 12 year blade life limit

jumbled-datesDisclaimer:  Any advice or information presented here is the opinion of the Author.  It is not FAA approved or acceptable data, nor is it an authorization to perform maintenance or determine airworthiness. 

Over the 7 years I have been working on Robbies, I’ve been asked this question quite a lot.  Honestly, I’d bet that I’ve been asked about the 12 year life limit on M/R and T/R blades 100+ times.  I have wrangled with owners about what can and cannot be done and what is and is not legal.  I’ve been pigeonholed into having owners try to get me to sign off annuals “just so they could get a few more hours” out of a set of blades.  So let’s break it down.

I’m just as cheap as anyone.  I don’t want to replace something that doesn’t need to be replaced, nor do I want to fix things that aren’t broken.  If I had to toot my own horn as an A&P, I’d say that I work on the owners behalf as much as possible.  I don’t try to bill loads of shop hours or sell them parts they don’t need, often to the detriment of my own pocketbook.  I have had owners actually get mad at ME for telling them that yes, indeed the life limited components section of the maintenance manual is legally binding.  “I didn’t hold a gun to your head and make you buy a helicopter” was my response to the last angry owner that yelled at me over this.


  • The life limited components pages of the maintenance manual are FAA approved and therefore must be complied with to stay legal.
  • FAR 43 performance requirements for 100 hour and Annual inspections state that for rotorcraft, a manufacturers checklist must be used for portions of the inspection.  Read FAR 43.15.
  • The Robinson checklist also mentions life limits and overhaul requirements as well as all sorts of other items.
  • An A&P or A&P IA must use a checklist when performing a 100 hour or Annual inspection.  It can be of their own making, but not for a rotorcraft as per 43.15.

Based on the above facts, it can pretty easily be surmised that there are 2 methods which cannot really be gotten around on the blade life limit.  You are required by the life limited components section, as well as by the required use of the manufacturers checklist at inspection time.

So, when does this 12 years start?  That’s a good one right there as there are several different opinions out there floating around on this question.  For the most part, the various opinions I have read recently are not true.  Per the Robinson R22 maintenance manual section 3.002 blades installed at Robinson have an initial in-service date based on the date the Airworthiness certificate is issued.  Calendar time for blades purchased as spares begins as of the date on the Authorized Release Certificate or 8130-3 tag.  It would be wise for owners / pilots / technicians to get familiar with this idea before determining airworthiness.  The R44 information is located in section 3.002 of the R44 maintenance manual and the R66 information is located in section 5-11 of the R66 maintenance manual.

Potential buyers beware, if the blades have been changed or supposedly have life remaining on them, you will need to make sure that the seller has the 8130’s available so that you can determine that they have life remaining.  If you are unable to determine this, the blades are considered unairworthy.  If you’re planning on pushing this limit or somehow coercing your local IA into continuing to perform annual inspections on the aircraft after these calendar limits have been exceeded I feel it would be good to let you know that yes, the IA in this case would be signing off an unairworthy aircraft, but also that the owner and the pilot would be violating FAR 91.7 Civil Aircraft Airworthiness in the event that they fly the aircraft.  Sure, the blades will probably be fine, but if you’re planning on flying past life limits, why even bother with inspections at all?

I know this is a touchy topic with Robbie owners.  Let’s not have any comments about how they could improve their blades etc…. Of course Robinson could build a different blade, but based on the relatively low cost of a Robinson and the relatively low cost of a set of blades, it would seem to me that opening yourself up to a potential lawsuit or certificate action by the FAA is just not worth the cost.  Finally, of course the real cost here is flying parts within their limits so that we don’t hurt anyone.

Keep the whirly bits up – Johnny

Concepts for the new student pilot

flying-lessons-vintage-metal-sign-aviation-airplane-humor-18-x-12-steel-not-tin_12810789So you want to fly?  Awesome!  Welcome to the club :). The great part is that just by wanting to join the club, you’re already a de-facto member of a worldwide community of aviators, aviation enthusiasts, and  You may ask yourself, “Self, how do I start?”  Well, I have a few observations on this, and a couple of tips for the new pilot based on watching and being involved in flight training for the past 7 years.  NOTE: These tips are offered free of charge, and advice is generally worth what you pay for it……

So, you may be expecting a step-by-step list or 10 ways to get a pilots license or perhaps a matrix of things to check off.  Nah, not here.  There are tons of great places to find that information, quick google searches for things like “how to pick a flight school”, or “how do I get my pilots license” will yield a mountain of information which I cannot possibly make any better.  Now if you knew me personally or had ever taken a class or flown with me you would know that we are going to find the parts of the topic that no one really wants to talk about and then dive right in.

As opposed to many other forms of education or training, the nature of American flight training and pilot development follows an interesting flow.  Generally, but certainly not always flight instruction is given by instructors who are quite new and inexperienced.  Now, many countries and senior aviators scoff at this concept and will often mumble some useless opinion disparaging the current state of instruction. There is neither time nor interest on my part in arguing this. It is neither good nor bad, it just….is.  There are many fantastic instructors who are so new that the ink has yet to dry on their temporary certificate who have the ability to provide safe, efficient, and competent flight instruction.  And there are many senior pilots who give instruction that is unprofessional, opinionated, and dangerous.  Again, this situation exists for many reasons, it is neither good nor bad, it just IS.  This concept does not change whether you fly with ‘ol Hank down at the local grass strip, or at the biggest, best, most organized shiny flight school ever.  Instructors are certified based on their ability to fly, their aeronautical experience, and a minimal amount of experience in the FOI (fundamentals of instruction) which is a fancy term for how people learn things.  So what does this mean for you the student?  It means that your instructor may or may NOT actually be a great natural teacher.  What you can be assured of is that they completed the minimum standards to become a flight instructor, no more, no less.

Concept #1
What does this mean for you the student?  It really means that YOU are going to have to look out for yourself.  The concept of Pilot in Command starts with you and your own training.  Prior to being allowed to solo in an airplane or helicopter, or take a check ride (aka. oral and practical examination) your instructor will have to evaluate whether they feel you can act as Pilot in Command or PIC of the aircraft.  Command means to be in charge; have authority.  So, yes, from day 1 the most successful student pilots will take command of their training and themselves.  YOU are responsible for managing your training funds, and for setting and communicating YOUR goals to your flight instructor.  YOU are the customer.  As someone who wants to earn the certificate that allows YOU to command an aircraft, I strongly recommend that you act like one from day one.  Now what this does NOT mean is that you become an asshole or start demanding things of your instructor or blaming everyone else for any shortcomings you have.  No one wants to fly with the person who acts like they run the place from day 1.  Below are some concepts that I have seen really work for those who “get it” and “get ahead”.

  • Be pathologically punctual (show up on time or early… much as you can)
  • Be nice, practice the golden rule
  • Work with your instructor to set your goals
  • Be prepared for a flight, and if you are not, don’t try to fake it, admit it and communicate that to your instructor.
  • Look up information, don’t rely on others opinions or memory, FIND IT IN THE BOOK.
  • Proactively deal with money or life situations before they become a problem.  Example, if you feel you may run short on funds, discuss it with your instructor or the flight school staff BEFORE it becomes an issue.  If you have a family or life issue come up, COMMUNICATE that to your instructor
  • Expect your instructor to be punctual, prepared, and communicative to you.  If they are not, ask them why.  Be clear in your expectations of them and hold them to it.  If they do not respect your expectations, find a different instructor.  Be very careful not to project your fears or shortcomings onto them and blame them.
  • Expect your instructor to practice what they preach.  If the FAR’s (Federal Aviation Regulations) state something and the instructor breaks that rule, ask them about it.  If they are making things up or lying to you, get a different instructor.
  • Always remember that your instructor is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.  Facts and opinions are two very different things.  If they cannot back a training concept up with an FAR reference or other data, then it is an opinion.  It will be very important in your piloting experience to know the difference.

Concept #2
Talk about the things that are uncomfortable.  For many reasons, either possessing or developing an ability to discuss uncomfortable topics is one part of the foundation of being a safe pilot in my opinion.  How might you handle answering questions from your private or commercial passengers who ask if they are going to die in a crash on this flight?  How will you coach as a CFI (certified flight instructor) if you have to tell a student that they should possibly give up their dreams of being a pilot because they cannot overcome a hazardous attitude?  How will you approach conversations about money with clients or your flight school of choice, especially of money is getting tight and you or your student might run out before achieving a certificate or rating?  How will you take action as PIC if a passenger refuses an instruction just before taking off?  How might you handle a situation if you fly with a very experienced pilot on a flight review and they are consistently not performing a maneuver to standards but still expect you to sign them off as having completed it to standard?  Being able to discuss uncomfortable situations before getting angry or backing away from doing the right thing is a critical skill for a pilot.  Here’s a big one, how do you discuss unsafe or illegal operations that company you work for might be doing?

Concept #3
This will apply only to those wanting to work in aviation professionally.  Always remember, your flight training from day 1 to the final check ride for your last rating or certificate is a long job interview.  Whether you want to work at the flight school you train at, or another place, your reputation will follow you in this small industry.  If you show up in sweatpants and a dirty old t-shirt late to every flight and unprepared (don’t laugh, many do this very thing) it would be very unreasonable to expect the job offers to come pouring forth the day after you get your CFI certificate.  Yet, it never fails to surprise some folks.  I recommend this to my students “be yourself, but always strive to be the best version of yourself you can be.”  Not everyone wants to wear a suit to every day of flight training, but you may want to leave the sweats with the holes in the crotch in the bottom of the laundry basket when running out the door to fly.  Just sayin…..

Concept #4
Understand that there will be grey areas……. so many grey areas.  By grey areas I mean legal, ethical, moral in-betweens and undefined areas.  You will have to constantly work as a pilot to identify where you are.  Situational awareness includes the legal and ethical “space” you are operating in.  Back to the top I mentioned opinions and facts.  Make a habit of “looking in the book” to establish the EXACT rules that govern what you are doing.  As PIC you are solely responsible for determining whether the aircraft is in safe condition for flight.  You bet your ass you will be held liable for that very broad concept if and when you have to answer to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) or a courtroom.  So, in the spirit of being prepared for the flight, you may want to actually crack open the logbook to check the maintenance records and make sure that things have been taken care of.  But, in order to do that, you have to use the FAR’s and the aircraft maintenance manual to even know what the required maintenance intervals are.  And…. you should also be aware of any applicable AD’s (airworthiness directives) on the airframe, accessories, engines, propellers that need to be signed off.  So, just in this small example to truly make an educated assessment of airworthiness, the PIC should have a fairly detailed knowledge of applicable laws, manufacturer requirements, and maintenance practices before they ever even perform the daily walk around inspection or pre-flight inspection on the aircraft.  There is not possibly enough time to even get into all the operational grey areas. Here’s a quick example:  you have a commercial charter and the passengers show up in a group and bring a bunch of extra small bags with them that you didn’t plan on.  You’re running on schedule, and you have to guess at the weights of the bags.  In this case you may or may not have an accurate weight on your cargo, but as PIC you are legally required to know this prior to taking the charter…. so how are you going to handle that?  It is of critical importance to arm oneself with knowledge and critical thinking skills to make all of the grey areas in this profession as small as possible, but also important to accept that not all of them will be completely erased.  Even a part 121 airline operation cannot erase all grey areas.  Modern weather forecasting and radar cannot see or predict everything, the PIC of an airliner must still accept that there are things out of their control and be prepared on how to deal with those situations.  As a student pilot, are you aware that you may have to ground yourself if you take any medications not allowed by the FAR’s, or even medications that you are unfamiliar with?  Are you going to cancel a flight if you take an allergy medication that you’ve never tried before?  You should probably know the rules around this situation.

Concept #5
YOU are teaching yourself how to fly an airplane or helicopter.  Your instructor cannot teach you, they can provide tips, techniques, and demonstrations, but your brain and body is learning the skills needed.  This concept is simple but oh so powerful.  Your instructor’s job is to create a safe learning environment.  Your instructor cannot “make” you learn faster or slower than your natural pace.  Your instructor can only create the “space” for you to safely learn.  A very important concept that all students should understand fully is that learning is significantly slowed down or impaired by fear and anxiety.  If you are scared, you do not learn as quickly, if you are anxious about something, mastering the skills you need will take more time.  This is particularly poignant when it comes to the concept of proactively managing your money.  Money is a big stressor for many people.  The classic situation is one in which the student is running low on money and just needs to get ready for a checkride.  But, the anxiety surrounding the finances can often become a roadblock which takes more flight hours to solve, which further causes money stress.  Back to being communicative, by expressing anxieties and fears with your instructor, you can get into the cockpit in a low anxiety and low stress place, and your flying will improve faster because you are starting with your mind and body an a ready to learn state.  Fitness and nutrition play a big role in how well our bodies and brains perform, this is very evident when trying to learn new skills, particularly as adults.

It is my intention for this site to be a place where uncomfortable and critical concepts can be discussed in a mutually respectful environment, if you care to comment or discuss, please feel free to do so!

Keep the landing gear down and the whirly bits up – Johnny